Curriculum Leadership in a Period of Increased Challenges

As I have said on many occasions, aside from the safety and welfare of students and staff, school curriculum is one of the other key elements of a school system’s strength. It establishes common learning expectation and the primary focus of teaching and assessment for students and staff, as well as the basis for informing the public the school serves. In its entirely a school curriculum is teaching, learning, and assessment operating within an integrated web.

An effective curriculum design is systemic, common, and the focal point for examining results whether from within or outside the school, as in the case of State testing. It is a system that supports spiraling and coordination of teaching and learning both horizontally and vertically. There is a built-in opportunity for teachers to support their fellow teachers in subsequent grades. Also, each grade is informed of the expectations of previous grades for all subjects.

What would constitute a basic curricular system? Here are key criteria to use as a backdrop:

  • It is subject/grade/unit-based with a developmental flow and pacing.
  • Instructional units represent learning chunks in 2–4 week timeframes.
  • Each unit is titled with a brief description of what is learned in terms of skills/knowledge.
  • Unit learning standards are tied to selective content, strengthening acquisition.
  • Unit activities are titled, briefly described, standards-based, and performance-driven.
  • Unit assessments are varied with emphasis on a formative approach.

The concern for instructional unit length is based on long-term review which makes clear that drawn-out unit implementation inhibits closure. Shorter unit length ensures a greater understanding effect. With a large area of study, it is therefore wise to chunk it into smaller elements.

When viewing a curriculum in any subject, the listing of units with approximate timeframes represents a curriculum map. The curriculum is computer-based, such as EdVistas’ Curriculum Developer which houses all elements described with easy access to stay the course.

A curriculum must be described and in a place of easy access for reference and continued modification based on results. An unwritten curriculum does not exist. Therefore, a curriculum is a viable entity that never leaves the awareness of all who are responsible for instruction, learning, and assessment.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through student performance and a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching. Dr. Crowder may be reached at